Gili Trawangan, Indonesia Travel Guide

Off the coast of Lombok, Indonesia, a tiny island surrounded by crystal blue water stole my heart. That island is Gili Trawangan.

After seeing mesmerizing pictures from another traveler, and hearing about all the joys of being on island time, we decided to catch a boat to Gili Trawangan, or “Gili T”, the largest and furthest of the three islands making up what is collectively known as the Gili Islands. The other smaller islands are Gili Meno and Gili Air.

sunset swing on Gili Trawangan
One of the sunset swings on Gili Trawangan. Perfect for taking in the ocean view!
© Lindsey Allen

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How to Get to Gili Trawangan

To get to Gili Trawangan from Bali (the Indonesian island west of Lombok), take a fast boat or ferry from Padang Bai or Amed. The ride to Gili T takes about 1.5 hours from Padang Bai and under an hour from Amed.

Purchase tickets online using BlueWater Express. Or the often cheaper option is to buy tickets in-person through a travel agent. Both one-way and round trip tickets are available, and many services provide pick up and drop off to the harbor.

During your boat ride, you may see someone selling return tickets claiming that it will be “much more expensive” on the island. Do not worry! A return ticket can be bought at an office on Gili T for the same price they offer.

Tip: If you are prone to seasickness, it is a good idea to bring sea bands or dramamine or ginger root for this boat crossing from Bali!

Getting Around Gili Trawangan

Once you’re there, how do you get around? There are no motorized vehicles on Gili Trawangan but the island is so small, you can easily walk to all locations.

One of the best ways to get around is by bike. Keep scrolling to learn more about renting bikes on Gili T.

If you don’t want to walk (or bike) with your luggage, there are ‘bike taxis’ and horse-pulled carts, known as cidomo, as well!

Things to Do in Gili Trawangan

Dive into the Crystal Clear Water

snorkeling or scuba diving on gili t
Swimming with the fish on a snorkeling excursion.
© Danielle Watkins

Gili Trawangan is the turtle capital of the world. Rent a snorkel and venture to Turtle Point for a good chance of spotting these magnificent creatures. One way to see them is to join a snorkel tour aboard a boat. These tours typically make four stops along the way, including Turtle Heaven and the underwater statues. Plus, you can enjoy a lunch stop on Gili Air.

If you want more time below the waves, try scuba diving! Gili T is home to a thriving dive community and there is no shortage of dive shops to choose from. You might even want to complete your open water certification to unlock a whole new world of underwater adventures!

Explore the Night Life

Gili Trawangan has a reputation for being a party island, but its nightlife truly has something for everyone. Pull up a beanbag, chill out, and listen to live music at Sand Bar. Grab a Guinness at Tîr na nÓg Irish Bar or jam out at Sama Sama Reggae Bar. Dance the night away at Jungle Bar, the island’s night club.

All bars are open until 1 am, but each day of the week there is a different party night with one bar staying open until 3 am or later. Get the best of Gili T’s nightlife by joining the island pub crawl which visits four bars and includes drink specials, free shots, and a pub crawl t-shirt!

Rent a Bike

turtle point on gili t
One of the many sights that can be explored by biking around Gili Trawangan!
© Casie Frederick

Since there are no motorized vehicles on Gili Trawangan, the best way to see the island is by bike.

Rent a bike from your hotel or from bike rental shops along the main strip of the island. Daily rates start at 25 – 50k IDR ($1.75 – $3.50 USD). The island’s coastline is just 4 miles (6.5 km) around and takes about an hour and a half to complete.

There are certain parts along the north side of the island where you may have to come off your bike and walk it through the sand. That’s a perfect excuse to grab a fresh fruit smoothie, find a spot on the beach, and take in the views of the crystal clear turquoise water!

Catch a Sunset

sunset on a beach on the west coast of gili t
The start of a beautiful view on the “sunset side” of Gili T!
© Casie Frederick

You can’t leave Gili Trawangan without catching a breathtaking sunset! The northwest side of the island aptly named the sunset side, is the perfect place to start.

Head there around 5:30 PM to grab a good seat at one of the sunset bars or resorts, like The Exile or Gili Teak. This should give you plenty of time to find the comfiest bean bag and take a picture on an iconic Gili ocean swing. Feel free to grab an early dinner or sunset cocktail to complete your sunset experience.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can climb the Gili T Hill (once used as a Japanese WWII outpost) to catch the sun sinking behind Bali. You may also catch a glimpse of mighty Mount Agung, Bali’s largest active volcano.

Enjoy Delicious Food

tropical smoothie bowl with dragon fruit, bananas, and coconut
Enjoying a delicious smoothie bowl on the beach of Gili Trawangan!
© Casie Frederick

There are plenty of unique and delicious restaurants on Gili Trawangan from which to choose.

For breakfast, grab a creme brûlée coffee at Coffee & Thyme or a smoothie bowl from The Banyan Tree. Eat like a local at Kili Novi’s Warung or venture to the night market for fresh fish and produce. Keep it healthy at Pituq’s vegan restaurant or at Casa Vintage located on the sunset side at Casa Vintage Beach. Load up on comfort food like mac & cheese and burgers from Tîr na nÓg Irish Bar or pizza from Francesco’s Pizza.

Whatever you’re in the mood for and whatever your budget, Gili T has a restaurant for you!

Where to Stay in Gili Trawangan

Despite being a small island that draws large crowds of visitors, there’s no need to worry about limited accommodations. There are plenty of options for places to stay on Gili T.

When I was traveling to Gili Trawangan, I stayed at the Broken Compass Hostel. It has a laid back atmosphere and is affordable. There’s a bar right by their beautiful swimming pool, they offer bike rentals, and it’s super easy to meet people with their organized trivia nights and socials. The employees also organize snorkeling excursions, which is how I was able to swim with sea turtles!

Elsewhere on the island is the Gili Castle or the Gili Beach Bum Hotel, both well-known party hostels in Gili Trawangan if that’s your cup of tea. 

If you’re searching for some more ‘high quality’ options that are still not too expensive, there’s also Tír na nÓg, Scallywag’s Resort, and Trawangan Dive Resort.

By Casie Frederick